Ch­ester water­man sings of the Bay

Record Observer - - Community - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

CH­ESTER — Harry David­son, 88, of Ch­ester, re­cently turned heads at the Queen Anne’s County Water­man’s As­so­ci­a­tion gath­er­ing at VFW Post 7464 in Gra­sonville, when he sang sev­eral songs he has com­posed over the years about life on and around the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. The lyrics to the songs showed a close, per­sonal re­la­tion­ship to the wa­ters. David­son’s songs are rem­i­nis­cent of the folk songs Bob Dy­lan once sang, but David­son sings bet­ter than Dy­lan, one au­di­ence mem­ber com­mented.

A na­tive Kent Is­lan­der, David­son grew up on a farm lo­cated at Love Point, the north­ern most por­tion of Kent Is­land. He is well ac­quainted with the Ch­ester River and Kent Nar­rows where he pre­vi­ously led wild­fowl hunt­ing and fish­ing par­ties. He rem­i­nisced, al­most ro­man­ti­cally, about life as a water­man around Kent Is­land, wish­ing to see the Bay re­stored to the times of ex­plorer John Smith. David­son’s busi­ness card states, “Bring Back the Bay Like in the days of John Smith.”

David­son still owns three boats, in­clud­ing a 30-foot work­boat docked at the Water­man’s Pier at Kent Nar­rows. He still takes out fish­ing par­ties.

“The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay is the great­est thing on earth! I want to see it re­stored to what it once was, and I be­lieve it can be,” David­son said.

He has a strong opin­ion about why the Bay de­clined and said that its de­cline is much more than blam­ing it on nat­u­ral habi­tat de­struc­tion.

“The change came very quickly ,start­ing in the early 1950s and run­ning through the early 1960s,” David­son said. “Chem­i­cals were sprayed on farms all around the Bay, which dur­ing heavy rains and as far back as Hur­ri­cane Hazel in 1954, those chem­i­cals ran off into the Bay wa­ters killing not only the fish, but the grasses that are so crit­i­cal to the en­tire ecosys­tem of the Bay. I’d like to see the Water­man’s As­so­ci­a­tion sue these chem­i­cal com­pa­nies for de­stroy­ing their liveli­hoods. To me it’s the same as the tobacco in­dus­try hav­ing to pay for the deaths of peo­ple who smoked cig­a­rettes. The cig­a­rette com­pa­nies were held ac­count­able for the un­nec­es­sary deaths of so many peo­ple. Why not hold the chem­i­cal com­pa­nies re­spon­si­ble in the same way?”

David­son added, “I’d like for some­one to prove me wrong, but I don’t think any­one can. Af­ter the chem­i­cals, that when fish started hav­ing pfi­es­te­ria disease. More peo­ple die from can­cer here now than ever. To me, it all comes back to the chem­i­cals be­ing used on the farms.

“With the habi­tat of the wa­ters poi­soned and de­stroyed by the chem­i­cals,” David­son added. “the grasses gone, oys­ters gone, much of the wildlife gone, it has ef­fected ev­ery­thing about the Bay. I see it as ‘poi­son in z— fil­ters out.’ The oys­ters and men­haden, both which fil­ter the wa­ters from pol­lu­tion, the wa­ters of the Bay didn’t have a chance. But al­low the oys­ters to come back and stop killing the men­haden fish for what I call the “omega craze” and the Bay can come back to what it was dur­ing the times of John Smith. That’s how pow­er­ful those two in­gre­di­ents are to restor­ing the wa­ters!” He rec­om­mends ev­ery­one read the book “The Most Im­por­tant Fish in the Bay” by H. Bruce Franklin.

Still, David­son has a pas­sion for the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and what it once was. He de­clares his sen­ti­ments are shared by many other peo­ple.

Among David­son’s songs, one is about the once pop­u­lar and pop­u­lous “Black Duck,” which he calls in his song “The King I Know” of all the ducks that once were so plen­ti­ful around the Bay. In fact, it was once pub­lished, “there were more Black Ducks on Kent Is­land than any place in North Amer­i­can,” David­son re­counted. “It wasn’t peo­ple that killed that duck from hunt­ing too much, it was the de­struc­tion of their nat­u­ral feed­ing grounds.”

David­son’s CD, “Songs of the Work­ing Water­man of the Ch­e­sa­peake,” in­cludes 17 songs about the life that once was on the Bay. They can be pur­chased for $10, while sup­plies last, in his­toric down­town Stevensville at My Lit­tle Stu­dio and Is­land Arts, di­rectly across from Peace of Cake Bak­ery.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

Kent Is­land water­man Harry David­son, left, sing water­man songs he had com­posed to the gui­tar ac­com­pa­ni­ment of Shea Springer of Eas­ton be­fore other lo­cal wa­ter­men spoke about their per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences har­vest­ing seafood from the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay at the VFW ear­lier this year. David­son’s songs, ti­tled “Long John” (for the late John Peet), and “But­ter­ball” for the But­ter­ball Thomp­son, were a trib­ute to the lo­cal lore and water­man’s cul­ture.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Capt. Harry David­son sings a song dur­ing Cpt. Eldridge Mered­ith’s birth­day cel­e­bra­tion called, “Oh Long John, the oys­ter culling man.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.